Originally created 12/18/00

Who GAINs? 121800 - The Augusta Chronicle



The Augusta Aviation Commission politely endured a dog and pony show last week when former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad came to town to boost for a new lobbying group he called the Global Aviation Improvement Network.

Branstad asked for support for what he said was a "grass-roots" fledgling organization, which he explained was to promote air traffic to communities just like Augusta. But the former governor was long on flash and short on specifics.

GAIN's goals are vague, its list of members isn't impressive and its organizational structure is as uncertain as a Delta Airlines departure time.

The only real goal the group has seems to be to promote the proposed merger between United Airlines and US Airway. Funny how GAIN's funding source is none other than United, although Branstad won't say how much funding United is supplying.

The aviation commissioners asked front-man Branstad some good questions, which he dodged by telling stories from his good old days as governor.

He talked about the lottery. He talked about how the group would welcome airports large and small to its membership. He trotted out a list of supporters, which included everyone from Jim's Truck Stop in who-knows-where to chamber of commerce types from around the country.

Charlotte, N.C., leaders have been GAIN hangers-on - little wonder since Charlotte stands to be a big beneficiary of the proposed merger as it would make Charlotte/Douglas the merged airline's Southeastern hub. It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that Charlotte is a financial backer of GAIN.

And Augusta could also gain from this group, Branstad implied, although he couldn't be specific about how.

Fortunately, the commission didn't waste much time on GAIN. Outgoing commission chairman Ed Skinner wisely suggested further discussion be postponed until the January meeting.

In the meantime, the commission ought to find out who really stands to to benefit from GAIN. Chances are good that the true beneficiaries will be United and US Airways.